Writing Quickly: A Secret Strategy

Photo credit: c.chich on Flickr
I wrote a blog post about a month back in which I gave a couple of tips for writing quickly. This is not a repetition of that post, but rather an expansion.

You see, when I wrote that post I mentioned this thing I hadn't tried, but I'd heard a lot about called Write or Die. In short, Write or Die is an app meant to strip out all other distractions and get you writing. How? It's pretty simple.

Before your writing session you set the amount of time you'd like to write and what your word count goal is. As I've been combining Write or Die with #wordmongering sessions (more on that later), I usually set it to 30 minutes and 500 words.

After you've dictated your goals, you may choose four different "consequences" and three different "grace periods." The Web App looks like this:



According to the website, the consequences are as follows (and I quote):

"Gentle Mode: A certain amount of time after you stop writing, a box will pop up, gently reminding you to continue writing.

Normal Mode: If you persistently avoid writing, you will be played a most unpleasant sound. The sound will stop if and only if you continue to write.

Kamikaze Mode: Keep Writing or Your Work Will Unwrite Itself."

So Kamikaze mode sounds really terrifying and I'll probably never use it, BUT I've been writing on normal mode with a strict grace period (I'm thinking I may brave evil, just to try it) and it's been fantastic. (Quick note: After you finish your Write or Die session, copy and paste everything over to whatever word processor you use. I can't say for sure if the paid versions save your work, but the web app most certainly does not.)

Ok, so the catch? I don't just use Write or Die.

You see, also about a month ago, my Twitter buddy @surlymuse wrote about combining #wordmongering with Write or Die. If you ask me, it's pure genius.

For those of you who don't know what #wordmongering is, you can check out my #wordmongering post which basically explains its awesomeness or take a look at the the handy dandy #wordmongering website created by #wordmongering co-founder @notveryalice.

In short, #wordmongering is a Twitter hashtag where writers get together and have thirty minute writing sprints starting at the top of every hour. At the end of the sprint, you share your word count achievements with each other, throw some virtual confetti around and take a break until the next sprint. It's a fantastic tool with some great people that really gets you writing.

So when I read about combining Write or Die with #wordmongering, I was intrigued. Could it really work?

I tried it. In my first Write or Die/#wordmongering combination sprint, I wrote over 1,000 words. In thirty minutes.

That's a pretty big deal for me. In months of writing I had only breached the 1,000 word mark in a half hour maybe two or three times. My average was somewhere around 500 words (which is why I chose 500 as my goal when I set my first Write or Die session up) and it wasn't uncommon to drag along in 400 word thirty minute spurts.

No longer.

You see, Write or Die forces you to keep your fingers on the keyboard at all times. Even if you're only hitting the backspace and enter key to avoid that horrendous noise and scary red screen (which *ehem* I NEVER do or anything), something about keeping your fingers on the keyboard with the constant feeling of that timer about ready to go off at any moment when you stop writing makes you realize that it is most certainly possible to keep writing at all costs. More possible than you might have imagined.

Combine this with the support group and friendly competition of #wordmongering, and you have yourself a lethal strategy to getting those words down quickly.

So there you go. The secret is out.

Have you tried the Write or Die/#wordmongering combination?

32 comments:

Donald Cribbs said...

sounds just scary enough to work! I'll add it to the arsenal! Thanks, Ava. :D

Ava Jae said...

Sure thing! I hope it helps you as much as it's helped me! :)

Joseph Eastwood said...

Oh whoa, it sounds both fun and scary! I will have to try it out sometime :) great post, Ava!

JFeijten said...

Brilliant! This is just what I needed. I was surfing the internet, frustrated because my fantasy short story seems hard to write, and then I read this post. You can imagine that the first thing I'm going to do right now is try that Write or Die thing xD Hope it works for me!

Ava Jae said...

So glad this post turned out to be so timely for you! Definitely let me know what you think once you try it out! :)

annaliterally said...

I love Write or Die and I use it when I write my novels. If they had a WoD app for screenwriting, I'd sooooo use it!

J. A. Bennett said...

I haven't but I'm going to now! !

Daniel Swensen said...

Yeah, well, I was doing it before it was cool, you Jaedra-come-lately.

But seriously, I'm glad the word is spreading. It works almost terrifyingly well for me.

Daniel Swensen said...

By the way, what I do when I hit a short block, rather than hit backspace -- I go back and add a word or a sentence to a previous paragraph. It usually gets me over the momentary block and keeps the buzzer from going off. 

Sara Leggeri said...

Haven't tried Write or Die yet, but I think it's just what I need to get my butt in gear.Will definitely try it with wordmongering. :) Thanks Ava!

Ava Jae said...

:) It's a really fantastic strategy. Thanks so much for suggesting it! 

Ava Jae said...

Hmm, I might have to try that. Although I have a feeling I might take too long to read what I just wrote before I add said word or sentence...

Daniel Swensen said...

 It's not easy, but better for my psyche than backspacing, which feels like cheating to me. :)

Ava Jae said...

lol I suppose it kind of is, which is why I don't do it for more than a couple of seconds, but it's akin to tapping my fingers while thinking. And the fact that I have to keep my fingers on the keyboard seems to spur me on. 

Jason Burns said...

So what is Electric Shock Mode?

Ava Jae said...

Honestly? No idea. Haven't tried it. 

Chitownchica said...

TY!

Ava Jae said...

You're welcome! :)

JFeijten said...

I like it and it does work! Although I must say that I'm still a bigger fan of the classic NaNo word sprints (or wordmongering like you call it ^^)

Ava Jae said...

I've found that doing both really helps me. I can reach my daily goal in two sessions. ^_^

Rena Traxel said...

I've never tired it but I just might now.

Joe Iriarte said...

I love Write or Die. I don't do well with writing competitions, friendly or otherwise, at this point, so I'll probably stay away from the #wordmongering hashtag, but Write or Die is awesome for keeping me focused. I use kamikaze mode, and truly, it's nowhere near as awful as everyone seems to assume. I never lose words because I never let my grace period run out. It's not really about punishment or anything like that--it's just something to keep me focused.

I see you mentioned backspace in another comment; I adapt something I got from agent and writer Lucienne Diver. I've heard her talk about how her middle school English teacher made the students write in a journal in class for a certain amount of time, during which the pen was not permitted to stop writing. If they didn't know what to write, students were to write "nothing at all" over and over again until they *did* figure out what else to write. I began incorporating that into my Write or Die sessions. Eventually I dropped it down to just "Nothing" and then simply the letter n. When I'm done writing, I just search out and delete all the stray N's.

Incidentally, you can select and copy your text both before you're done and after. When you press the "done" button, if you scroll down far enough, your text is reprinted on the "done" screen. I always copy first just to be safe, though. There's also a way to get lost words back from kamikaze mode, but I won't tell you what it is because that would be enabling. ;)

Ava Jae said...

Let me know how it works for you! 

Ava Jae said...

I've never actually heard anyone talk about kamikaze mode, so thanks for sharing your experience! Writing "nothing" over and over again is an interesting idea to keep you writing--I might just try that. 

I think I'll probably still stray away from kamikaze mode, however I've found Write or Die to be an excellent writing resource and I've started using it regularly now. 

Rachel Larow said...

ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC ARTICLE!  I've never heard of either Write or Die or #wordmongering but I'm certainly going to use them now!

Ava Jae said...

Awesome! Please let me know what you think! :)

Jane said...

yikes- that mode must be awful haha

Saronai Aldarion said...

This sounds like an awesome and intriguing app, can't wait to try! A lot of the name choices make me chuckle like "evil" grace period and the way you described how you never hit buttons to avoid scary colors and noises.

I'll probably end up writing in kamikaze mode. I don't want to lose my work, which is why it might be the perfect thing to force me forward.

Ava Jae said...

I don't think you can actually select it, so it might be a joke? Not sure.

Ava Jae said...

Even now I still hit the spacebar when the screen starts turning red and I'm trying to come up with words. Old habits die hard, I guess. :)


You're braver than I am, trying out kamikaze mode. Good luck!

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